As we enter the last couple of months of 2020, many credit unions are excitedly looking ahead to the coming year for greener pastures. While we are all certainly crossing our fingers for better things to come in the new year, we must also be prepared for the possibility of continued effects of the ongoing pandemic and associated economic volatility.
It is critical that credit unions invest in their leadership teams now to help best position them for the year (and years) ahead. It is these people at your credit union (mid-management and executives) that will continue to lead the charge for a vibrant work culture and excellent member service. Your staff will, in many ways, rise to the bar they observe your leadership team set.
There are several key areas upon which your credit union can focus its leadership energies and resources. Consider the following:
Messaging. Your entire leadership team must be on the same page when it comes to messaging. This includes all information that is shared with your staff. It also includes the more qualitative (but equally important) tone and positivity with which messaging is shared. Your messaging must be clear and consistent across all branches and departments. Ensuring every single member of your leadership team is well-versed in messaging greatly enhances your credit union’s cohesiveness and capacity for teamwork. Clear messaging also cuts through gossip/grapevine issues as well as the cacophony of voices that can quickly rise during challenging times. Your leadership team’s grasp of messaging can help guide the credit union ship through turbulent waters.
Accountability. It is a natural human tendency to enjoy sharing good news while resisting or delaying sharing bad news. While a focus on positivity is important, credit unions cannot turn a blind eye towards challenging news or developments. More importantly, they must have leadership teams in place that are not only transparent when sharing such news but also shoulder accountability when appropriate. In challenging times, passing the buck actively damages your credit unions internal brand and culture. Part of earning a spot on the leadership team is making difficult decisions when necessary and also taking responsibility for them. Your staff is much better served by accountability. Other important personality traits such as courage and charisma come into play. Employees will both gravitate towards and derive information from leaders that display genuinely positive attitudes and personalities.
Empathy. One of the hallmarks separating a mere manager/boss from a true leader is the concern he or she expresses for their employees. This also includes the families and interests of staff. When your leadership team shows genuine empathy and compassion towards the rest of your staff, they develop deeper and more committed relationships that help build a better inner culture and, in turn, extends outwards towards building a better exterior (member) culture. The maxim “Your level of external service will never exceed your level of internal service” definitely comes into play here. Note: empathy and compassion do not always necessarily mean more money (compensation). Quite often, it’s being a good active listener of your staff when they express frustrations and challenges (from both the home and work environments) as well as offering reassurance, accommodations (when possible) and affirmation of their worth and value as a team member. Like many other people in times of challenge, your staff will remember those who had their backs when it most counted. Be that leader for them.
Messaging, accountability and empathy are only three of many ways in which your credit union can help prepare its leadership team for the coming months and years. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we must expect the unexpected. Committing the time and resources to developing the best practice traits and behaviors from your leadership team now will pay significant dividends in the future. As author John Maxwell said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” In order to rise, your credit union must invest in its leadership team and culture.